BMW K1600GTL – Top of its class

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When it comes to touring bikes, the BMW K1600GTL has shaken up the market and earned its place at the top of the list.

Sure, you have the Honda Goldwing’s and the Kawasaki K1400 GTR’s, which are both amazing cruisers and among some of the most loved tourers in the country, but the Germans and Italians have caught up, and are simply a lot cooler.

And with the K1600GTL being the case in point, very capable as well.

Big but bold, heavy but fast, and to those not in the know, this massive BMW is as comfortable as any car within its price category, and much faster too.

And so the only way to truly review this highly acclaimed K1600GTL was to take it for a high speed run to one of the furthest destinations I could reach within a day.

And so I packed up the gear at the end of a Friday, got onto the North-South Expressway, and rode the 400-odd kilometres to Penang.

Just because I could and the GTL was pro­ving to be a very eager machine on the road.

Even with the light of day fading away, the journey seemed interesting and pretty easy.

As massive and intimidating as it looks, the two-wheeled ‘luxo-beemer’ is easy to ride.

At 321kg, the GTL is no lightweight, but get moving and the whole package might as well weigh 3kg, because it certainly feels like it.

It’s incredible maneuverability and thanks to good ground clearance, it actually allows you to take on some pretty steep cornering angles as well, and that makes this tourer a nimble machine in corners.

But the one thing that makes the GTL so sweet to ride is its in-line six-cylinder engine.

It was designed to be beautifully smooth, responsive, efficient, and a contributing factor to the bike’s overall handling, thanks to its low centre of gravity and it being the lightest six-cylinder engine in the biking world.

The engine creates most of its power at the mid and top end of the rpm range, 160hp at about 7,750rpm and an impressive 175Nm of torque at 5,250rpm, so it’s quite a screamer, but with two extra cylinders and large ones at that, the power delivery is smooth.

The 1,649cc engine loves to rev, but never once felt stressed. It’s so refined that you could easily be doing over 200kph without realising it.

The wind can make its presence felt but the electronically-controlled front visor keeps most of it out of your way and even minimises the noise transferred to you, so you can listen to your favourite tracks playing from on-board audio system at speeds of up to 180kph.

So cruising at 160kph with cruise control turned on and Penang being the final destination, the GTL was proving to be quite a charmer, and then it happened: it rained on my parade. Because it was dark, I didn’t see the clouds build up; the occasional lightning was there, but I thought nothing of it.

Yes, I was soaked, and it was getting cold riding at high speeds in the rain. The handle bars and seat heaters helped a lot, and even though it was pouring hard, the GTL never once put a wheel wrong.

But that’s also partially thanks to the power mode which offers three modes – rain, road, and dynamic – with each limiting the amount of power delivered to the wheels, so in this case, it was rain as I didn’t want the bike to slip out from underneath me if I accidentally squeezed the throttle a little too much.

The lights of the GTL truly deserve mention. Even in low beam there were cars flashing at me thinking I was on high beam.

But of course I wasn’t, the adaptive xenons headlights coupled with BMW’s iconic ‘angle-eyes’ as we Malaysians call it, or ‘corona-rings’ as it’s officially known, worked brilliantly in these low visibility situations.

With the adaptive headlights function, the lights actually bend when you lean the bike over for a corner.

Complicated electronics measure your lean angle, and position the light beam accordingly, ensuring you are always able to see what’s coming towards you.

But after riding past three accidents and a few near misses, I figured it best to let the weather win and called it a night in Ipoh.

The next day I continued my journey bright and early, summoning the ‘Road’ mode to indulge in every bit of horsepower the GTL offers.

The six-speed gearbox isn’t anything special but with an abundance of torque, you rarely need to downshift to muster up speed after slowing down.

The winding roads after the Jelapang toll towards Taiping just cemented the fact that the GTL handles very well, and with the Dynamic Traction Control and ABS, you can carry some serious speed into corners.

At RM168,000, I would say the K1600GTL is 99% perfect, the 1% lost due to the fact that the on-board GPS system reflects too much glare from the sun, rendering it useless.

Other than that though, you could ride the world with the GTL, and be fresh enough to do it once more. – The Star